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Nifelheim (1994)
 

Nifelheim's debut L.P. was recorded in Studio Fredman, in the second week of December 1994. This album features John Zwetsloot, of Dissection, and the cover artwork was done by Necrolord. Not discovering this band until the release of Servants of Darkness, it took some time to acquire this album as it was difficult to find. To say that it was well worth the wait would be a major understatement.

Nifelheim begins with "The Devastation". From the first moments, one can feel the old demons being awakened. The production is slightly off, as it is a little thicker than on their other albums, almost with a Death Metal sound to the percussion. This, somewhat, thicker sound adds some bit of a doomy feeling to the riffs. The guitars are thin and possess the old school Black Metal feeling. The vocals are very unrestrained and are similar to Quorthon's work on the early Bathory albums. This brilliant Black/Speed Metal is continued on "Unholy Death".

"Possessed By Evil" shows that, truly, Nifelheim is consumed with the essence of 80s Black Metal, such as Venom, Bathory, Sodom, Hellhammer, et cetera. Yet one thing that really sets this band apart is the Iron Maiden influence that rears its head from time to time. These guys absolutely worship Maiden, and you will find many harmonies and so on, mixed throughout their albums, that display this fact.

This band does not simply rely on blast beats and tremolo riffs to carry their songs all the way through. As mentioned, they really have much more in common with the First Wave bands than their own peers. "Sodomizer" begins with a slower and more ominous tone, until speeding into a frenzy of blasphemy. Hellbutcher's vocals really do sound possessed and, sometimes, has a feeling of sinister desperation. The one scream, about halfway through, is bloodcurdling. This song is one of the more epic pieces of the album, featuring great solos and variations in tempo. A dark atmosphere is created in the latter half of the song. This is absolutely perfect in all ways. Some bands go for a 'retro' sound and try to imitate those that came before them. Nifelheim simply embodies this spirit and it comes out, effortlessly, on their albums.

"Satanic Sacrifice" begins with a feeling of doom and dread, accentuated by Helbutcher's tortured scream. In no time, the gates of Hell burst wide open as the song reaches full speed and flames consume all in their path. Strange that some have called this music 'mindless noise', when each song is easily identifiable and contains many memorable riffs. It would appear that some people just didn't bother to listen to the album or, maybe, previewed the first few seconds of each song, at best. People like that don't deserve to listen to such great music anyway.

The epic feeling continues on "Storm of Satan's Fire". This isn't the same sort of 'epic' that one would expect from Viking-era Bathory, for example, but the word is applicable, nonetheless. You really get the feeling of being dragged down to the very depths of Hell. The solos are, as usual, incredibly suitable for this music and the melodies are haunting. This is dripping with old school Black Metal feeling, like blood from a slashed throat.

The album concludes with "Witchfuck". This song features different tempos, from full-on speed to very old school sort of rhythms. At no point during this album does the band run out of steam of become redundant or boring. There is nothing uninspired about this classic debut release. In a sea of mediocre bands, Nifelheim stands tall as one of the elite.
 
(4 Feb. 2009)

 
Devil's Force (1997)
 

Devil's Force is the second release from Sweden's masters of Black/Speed Metal, Nifelheim. This album picks up from where their debut left off, the only noticeable difference being that the sound is slightly more raw than before. Being recorded in late 1997, this may have the distinction of being one of Jon Nödtveidt's final musical recordings, before going to prison, as he plays guitar on this album. In an old interview, Tyrant claimed that this album was the band's answer to Sodom's Obsessed By Cruelty. This would be their last album for Necropolis, as well as their last to include Demon on drums.

Nifelheim possesses the old spirit of 80s Black Metal, and it is easy to hear the influence of such bands as Venom, Bathory, Sodom, Tormentor and even Brazilian bands like Sarcofago and Vulcano. What sets Nifelheim apart is that there is also a bit of inspiration from Iron Maiden (their favorite band). They realized, early on, that it was impossible for them to make the same kind of music as Maiden, yet they still manage to mix in bits of NWOBHM melody, here and there.

"Deathstrike From Hell" begins the album with sinister thrash riffs and some morbid vocal effects. After a brief build-up, Nifelheim unleashes total blasphemy upon the listener. Some of the lead parts create a truly hellish atmosphere. About mid-way through, the speed gives way to somewhat slower thrash riffs (by comparison) and a great lead harmony. This song really sets the pace for the whole album.

More NWOBHM feeling can be found on the mini-epic, "Final Slaughter". This song is absolutely killer in all aspects. Hellbutcher's strained vocals sound possessed, as usual, and the raw production goes well with the old school riffs to give off a very old feeling. After a couple minutes, the song slows down. At this point, haunting melodies fill your head like the screams of the waking dead, crawling out of their graves. The riff around the 3:00 mark is absolutely brilliant. For someone that actually grew up with 80s metal, very few things are as satisfying as listening to a song such as this one. Within only a few minutes, Nifelheim manages to create something very memorable and epic. The ending is very reminiscent of old Slayer, which can never be a bad thing.

"Desecration of the Dead" is next and, despite the epic journey taken through the flames of Hell, there is no chance to rest. This song blasts forth with a merciless fury. Again, under two minutes into the song, one is obsessed by hauntingly eerie melodies that slither through the mind like a serpent. The ancient demons are certainly invoked on a song such as this.

The next song is "Demonic Evil", and it lives up to its title, from the opening moments. The band absolutely kills the listener as it almost becomes mind-shattering to believe that so many brilliant melodies and riffs could come from one band. Just when you think that one song was so great that the next one would have to be a disappointment or seem like filler, by comparison, they dispel such thoughts by producing more moments of pure genius.

On an album filled with great songs, "Satanic Mass" is still worthy of special mention as one of the best of the best. The vocals are total blasphemy and sound like an unholy creature screaming from blackened skies, as the lands below burn in raging hellfire. At this point, I wish that I was an expert in music theory so that it would be easier to more adequately describe the sheer brilliance (using that word a lot on this review) of this song. The riffs are nothing short of godly and the solos are incredible.

"Soldier of Satan" begins a bit slower than the previous songs. At this point, they would have to slow down for at least a few seconds so that the listener's heart does not explode. Yet a few seconds is all you get, as this picks up speed and is much like having broken glass forced down your throat as you are chained to a wall. Some time ago, I read that the playing on this album was extremely sloppy and difficult to discern. There's no telling what the hell they were listening to, but it certainly wasn't this album.

"Devil's Force" opens with riffs very similar to something found on Seven Churches, by Possessed, but only in the opening seconds. There are even moments that recall memories of Morbid Angel's Abominations of Desolation album. These, too, are very brief. This song is pretty straight-forward. The end features the same riff that started the song, accompanied by a brief solo.

The album concludes with the song "Hellish Blasphemy". The title would be very fitting to describe the entire album. In some strange sense, one can tell that this is the final song just by the feeling conveyed within. This was something that was very prevalent in the 80s; the last song of an album often felt like the ending of something, even if it wasn't some long, slow, epic work of dark art.

Devil's Force is highly recommended to anyone that appreciates Black/Speed Metal. If you have a fondness for the old 80s bands, then this is definitely for you. Nifelheim does well to carry on the black and hellish legacy of those who came before...
 
(5 Feb. 2009)

 
Servants of Darkness (2000)
 
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Servants of Darkness is the third full-length from Sweden's Nifelheim. As always, this band gets better and better with each release and continually display why they are among the elite. This was the first Nifelheim album I had ever heard, years ago, and I managed to pick it up at Sound Pollution, in Stockholm.

The album begins with the sound of wind blowing and bells chiming in the distance. A short acoustic passage stands in contrast to the full on Black/Speed Metal assault of "Evil Blasphemies." This song is filled with speed, chaos, fury and a wickedly haunting melody. Nifelheim are masterful at creating songs that, no matter how short, possess some sort of epic feeling to the harmonies. This is no exception.

"Sadistic Blood Massacre" and "Black Evil" continue on with the same frenetic pace as the opener. As with many Nifelheim songs, the beginning is much more wild and psychotic, and the melodic part seeps in later on. The melodies are really haunting and eerie, and no one does it like this anymore. There is a certain intensity to the vocals as they spew forth uncontrollably and the pace hasn't really let up yet. The war has only just begun...

The pace slows down a bit for the next song, "The Bestial Avenger." This is pure old school madness. This is the longest song on the album, and one of the most memorable. This is fucking evil perfection! This owes much of its existence to 80s Metal. I cannot emphasize enough just how brilliant this band is. This song, like so many others, is like a Satanic anthem. The pace slows down a bit, midway through, and then builds the intensity back up. Definitely one of the best on here.

"War of Doom (Armageddon)" was the first Nifelheim song I ever heard. Without knowing who it was, my first thought was that it was some gem from the 80s that I had missed. I thought that, surely, this was made not long after the classic Bathory albums. I was somewhat shocked when I learned that it was only a year or so old, at the time. Words cannot do justice to this song and its epic nature. The song title is very appropriate, as this sounds like a war march. Varying paces and otherworldly lead solos make this another stand-out track.

The pace picks back up with the title track and "Infernal Desolation." The album continues on with a variety of paces, epic arrangement and furious playing. The production is perfect for this kind of music. It sounds strong and powerful, while still being easy to mistake for something twenty years old. Even the bass is audible at certain parts, adding something to the sound. Oddly enough, I've read idiotic reviews claiming that Nifelheim made noisy, chaotic, talentless music. Such losers should stick to their favorite glam rock albums, as this is not for them. This is classic Black/Speed Metal and is definitely some of the most memorable stuff I've heard.

As we near the end of our Hellish journey, we go "Into the Morbid Black." This is one of my favorite songs on the album. Again, this starts fairly slow, compared to the others, but doesn't fail to speed up here and there. The song title is appropriate, as there is a very morbid atmosphere created with this one. During the slower parts, the vocalist sounds like a possessed corpse that has recently risen from the grave. There is no way that I will ever be able to articulate the brilliance of this song, along with the album closer "Sacrifice to the Lord of Darkness." I don't want to be repetitive, but this song is definitely defined by its intensity and epic nature. Those themes are present throughout the whole album, and most of Nifelheim's albums. This is just one more example of why they are among the elite.

If you don't own this, kill yourself and do it now.
 
(13 Mar. 2008)

 
Envoy of Lucifer (2007)
 
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Envoy of Lucifer is the fourth full-length from Sweden's Nifelheim. Like many others, I've been waiting for the follow-up to Servants of Darkness for several years. At certain points, I had wondered if the band had hung it up, as seven years is a long time to go between albums.

From the very beginning of "Infernal Flame of Destruction" I knew that this was a classic Nifelheim album. With each release, this band seems to get better and better. These guys show that, unlike their contemporaries, they have a very good background in metal as a whole. Their love of Iron Maiden has been well documented. Surely, this has influenced their sense of melody as I'd say this album owes as much to Maiden as it does to Bathory. The old-school Black Metal that Nifelheim are known for has never been stronger.

The first two tracks are strong and fast-paced, and do well to set the tone for the album. However, there is much more to look forward to than blinding speed and killer solos. "Open the Gates of Damnation" is the first stand-out track (excluding the opener, which is really great as well). This song begins somewhat fast, but progresses very nicely and the old feeling is captured very well in the chorus of the song. I'm always amazed at their ability to write such awesome riffs that belong on an 80s release. Years ago, when I first heard Nifelheim, I thought I'd stumbled upon some rare band from the 80s until learning the truth.

Of course, one would expect it to be difficult to follow up such a good song with something of equal quality. Most bands have a few decent songs, separated by filler. Not in this case. Nifelheim continue forward with "Claws of Death" which really slows things down a bit, after the initial speed in the beginning, and creates a very morbid atmosphere. The tempo goes back and forth and the melodies are incredible. This is truly the legacy of Bathory and Tormentor.

Just when it seems that the album has hit an early peak, "Storm of the Reaper" gives all the justification necessary for taking such a lengthy absence in between albums. The main riff of the song is brilliant and the arrangement could not be better. This proves to be yet another high point for the album. The following songs continue on, each easily identifiable from the rest. The intro to "Raging Flames" has Maiden written all over it.

"No More Life" begins with an eerie riff, and a sense of dread; of impending doom, fills the night. As usual, the song includes excellent riffs and melodies which wouldn't be out of place on an old Bathory or Maiden album. This song is yet another highlight of the album, and is a perfect was to close out an album which is destined to be regarded as a classic in the years to come.

All in all, I cannot complain about this album. The production suits it just fine. The vocals are excellent and the riffs are of high quality. This is how Black Metal should be. Many bands spring up after hearing a random album from the second wave and they move on to assume that they know all there is to know, yet their music will always betray their ignorance. Nifelheim's roots are in the old 80s bands, and it shows through very clearly. This is the only way it should be.

"This album is not only music. It is a ritual. Listen and receive..."

(15 Jan. 2008)

 
 

Nifelheim is a band that, seemingly, values playing live more than spending time in the studio. Thus, fans are tortured in-between releases, as they become more and more rare. The wait from Servants of Darkness until Envoy of Lucifer was hardly bearable, but ultimately rewarding. Since then, another seven years has passed and still no full-length. However, in December 2014, a special E.P. was released, available only at live shows.

Titled Satanatas, this mini-album features three tracks of uncompromising and old school Black Metal, as it should be. No more forced to look to the likes of Mordant or Pest, the trademark sound of Nifelheim triumphantly seizes the consciousness of the listener with "From Hell's Vast Plains". There is a sense of familiarity in certain parts, reminiscent of "Infernal Flame of Destruction", though soon taking on an identity of its own. The songwriting skills of Tyrant and Hellbutcher cannot be praised enough, somehow managing to compose mini-epics all while maintaining an ugly and primitive feeling.

"I rise in flames
from Hell's vast plains
to burn...
'til nothing will remain"

One noticeable difference between Satanatas and Envoy of Lucifer is that the production is not quite as clear, sounding more like the previous releases. This suits the pure 80's vibe of the compositions, particularly "Bestial Rites". This song really hearkens back to early Bathory, like a more sinister and possessed take of The Return... There is a subtle gloom to this track that darkens the atmosphere all the more. As always, utterly hellish solo work remains a key component of Nifelheim's songwriting and is very effective.

These guys are truly remarkable in their ability to craft excellent songs, never sacrificing the purity of the music and still being able to make each track stand on its own and sound distinct and original. "Praise Lord Satan" is the longest of the three, clocking in at just four and a half minutes, and is instantly memorable after just one listen. It is amazing how Nifelheim is able to sound so old school and so unique, both at the same time, never falling into the trap of merely coming off as some kind of 'retro act'.

The duration of Satanatas is less than twelve minutes, and yet this is some of the purest and most genuine Black Metal that has been released in several years. Though many false bands claim that the black flame burns within them, Nifelheim need claim nothing. There music proves that they are, and always have been, among the few that are actually toiling away in an effort to keep hell's fires burning. Seek out this essential recording however you must.
 
(7 Mar. 2015)

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